Sometimes I wonder why they continue to call those casino machines "video poker" rather than "royal anyone?" Let’s face it, most players think only one thought during play, "Will I get my royal this session?" Making that royal is an obsession to almost everyone; it marks the player as "someone special." Everyone who can’t remember what they had for breakfast can remember when the last royal occured or just how long it has been since then.
Some players are like fly paper to royals. One lady, who was handling some work for me, confided that she is almost frightened by her good luck at bagging royals. Within a week after hitting a $2,000 progressive, she hit a $6,500 royal in the suit of the month. Ask her how many royals she has seen and she’ll ask you what month you are referring to. On the Tony Diamond show, one caller asked by why he gets a royal about 10 games after he gets a straight flush. Some people have the worst problems.
But for most mere mortals, royals don’t come often enough. On an 8/5 $1 progressive, expert strategy should produce one in every 40,000 hands on average (not on schedule.) If a player wants to reduce this interval between royals, it is really very easy to do so. The secret is simply to alter one’s strategy so as to play more potential royals, like one, two and three-card royals even though this means discarding cards which have a high win potential but no chance of producing a royal. In other words, we play a strategy that is best fit for some jackpot higher than what the machine is offering.
So what’s the catch? Simply that our loss rate between royals will go up noticeably and might deplete our bankroll. Of course, if Lady Luck is with us and we happen to bag a royal ahead of the average interval, we could make money. On the other hand, if we just bag it in an average interval, we would lose more than by using the strategy which best fits the actual jackpot.
To illustrate this approach, we have prepared Table A depicting the statistics which control our destiny over the long run. This is for a $1 8/5 Jacks or Better progressive, the kind found in Las Vegas and most locales throughout the U.S.A.
Strategy Best Fit Loss Rate Interval
Jackpot Between Royals Between Royals
Expert-4 $4,000 4.7 percent 40,169 hands
Expert-8 $8,000 5.3 percent 32,650 hands
Expert-16 $16K 5.6 percent 31,533 hands
Expert-100 $100K 12.0 percent 24,990 hands
If a player uses the Expert-16 strategy while playing for a $4,000 jackpot, the interval between royals will indeed fall to 31,533 hands but the loss rate of 5.6 percent will be costly. Putting in $5 on each of the 31,355 hands will be an input of $157,655. With a 5.6 loss rate, the loss will be $8,828. That royal will restore only $4,000 so the loss will be $4,828 on $157,655 played which is a loss rate of 3.06 percent. This is about 10 percent above what an 8/5 machine usually takes from an expert player who has an average number of royals.
So there is a trade off available if that royal means so much to you. If the IRS is going to take your children away unless you cough up $4,000 immediately, you might take a shot at Expert-100 with a few bucks but you’ll need a very fast royal with a 12 percent loss rate until it shows.
(Since the game’s inception, Lenny Frome was recognized as video poker’s ultimate guru. Even though the author and GT columnist is no longer with us, his insightful works live on.)